Sunday, 28 November 2021

Solved it and Can’t Repeat it

Grooved 6 piece board burr #6

I’m visiting the outlaws in Bonnie Scotland this weekend and have tried my hardest to find a way to produce a little nonsense for you to read. It will be short and sweet because using Google's Blogger platform on a 7 year old iPad Air 2 is a bit hit and miss (mostly miss). 

This is (so far) the last in Juno's grooved board burr series and is, by far the toughest. It is gorgeous having been made from their original home made plywood. Satin Sycamore in the outer layer and the yellowish timber used for the inner layer is PNG Rosewood. It is just as tactile as all the others and demands to be played with.

The grooves in this one are in the outside of long lengths which is different to the last few. There are initially only a few possible moves and confidence grew quite quickly. I really seemed to be making progress as the puzzle stretched out enormously. Despite this, when it looks like something will come out being really precariously held in place, the blasted thing remained very well held together by the small dowels in the grooves - nothing else was holding it:

This looks so unstable but it’s very well held
Juno said about it:
"This little beast requires a maximum of 35 moves among the Grooved 6 Board Burr series to remove the first piece from the assembled shape. During the solving process, you may feel that the pieces are no longer interlocking together, but none of the pieces will come apart in a simple way. A few pieces tend to partially rotate and become very unstable especially around 14 moves from the assembled shape but there seems to be no shortcut solution for the first piece using rotational movements. It is somehow like playing with cast puzzles."

He certainly wasn’t kidding when he called it a "little beast"! It’s a monster! I spent nearly 2 weeks going round and round in circles. I got completely familiar with every single possible move in the first 20-25 moves. Nothing would induce it to go any further. I looked for hidden pathways but couldn’t for the life of me find anything new - it had been quite fun doing the initial exploration and gradually finding the pathway. Somehow the crucial step was obscured for me and I started playing with the Bubinburr that I had also received (got nowhere with that one either!)

At some point I must have inadvertently taken a hidden pathway and not realised it. I do suspect that I should not multi-task whilst puzzling. My pea brain barely manages to breathe and puzzle let alone watch TV, talk to Mrs S and puzzle all whilst breathing! Having found myself somewhere new, I tried to return and couldn’t. Oh well, let’s see where it takes me.

I have absolutely no idea how this happened!
Whilst it was really quite exciting to achieve this, it was a little disappointing to not understand it. But I was going to have fun with Burrtools. The model I finally produced (using quite a large grid) wouldn’t work so I asked for advice from the BT-meister, Derek, and he explained what to do (Juno also sent a copy of his file). The beast was reassembled and I tried again…

Nope! Nope! Hell nope! It’s not going to happen. Having solved it once by accident, I cannot do it again. I will keep trying but I cannot seem to find that hidden step. If you like Burrs, especially board burrs and are happy with grooved versions then this one is absolutely fabulous. It is still in stock here. You might find a few other beauties whilst you’re there…it would be a shame to just buy a single puzzle, wouldn’t it.

In the meantime I have another few beauties to work on. There will be a new bunch of releases from Pelikan very soon. Driving back from Edinburgh to Sheffield today in what looks like terrible weather. Hopefully no mishaps. Gulp! 


Sunday, 21 November 2021

Ali and Steve Annoy Mrs S...Again!

Brass Monkey #5
Just a short one this week - I am going to struggle to write much without giving significant clues. About a month ago, Allard posted his review of the 5th in the Brass Monkey series by Steve and Ali. He had received an early version to play with and had absolutely loved the idea. As soon as it went on sale, I couldn't resist and bought a copy - you cannot have too many burrs apparently and these are very nice heavy burrs...or are they? They certainly are burr-shaped but only number 1 is actually a burr - the rest unlock in a variety of different ways, each of which will leave you laughing out loud at the boys' cleverness and cheekiness. 

Brass Monkey #4 had me gasping in disbelief at what they had done - it was fabulous and beautifully implemented so I was very keen to find out what they could possibly have done to make yet another identical looking puzzle be fun. It arrived a couple of days later, much to the disgust of Mrs S, and unfortunately had to sit for a while before I could find some time from work to play.

It looks, as I have said, just like all the others. It's a cylindrical brass six piece burr with a circle etched into the end of each burr stick and a hole drilled into it. Each of them have slightly different variations of the hole and etching to set them apart from each other. It is a very significant chunk of puzzle at 70mm across each axis and weighing in at almost 800g - do NOT drop this on a tile, kitchen work surface or foot! Actually Mrs S has told me in no uncertain terms each time that if I damage any part of the kitchen then she will make me wish I had dropped it on my foot! 

So, what do you do to start with them? Well, they are burrs, so, despite the fact that you know they are not really burrs, you do the totally useless thing and try and push/pull each piece in each direction. By the time you have worked out how to keep track of all the possible moves, you have wasted at least a ½ hour. Now what? As you all know by now, I am a bear of very little brain so I move on to the next best thing to pushing and pulling and I start to shake it wildly in every possible direction. Aech shake has to be interspersed by pushing and pulling each stick in every direction before trying to shake in another direction. As you can imagine, the possible combinations mount up very fast and I take notes on my ipad for what I have done. In this fruitless way, I pass a very happy 2 or 3 days of effing and blinding and start to really get on Mrs S' nerves.

Finally I have run out of combinations of shaking and pulling and move on to swirling it in different directions and about different axes before pushing and pulling again. Yes, that didn't work either! After several days it is time to think© and it hurts! I go back to all the suggestions made over the years at MPPs about how to solve a puzzle - Mrs S stops me from submerging it in gin as she wants to drink the gin and that certainly calms her inner "savage beast" (she is Scottish and the savage beast is very close to the surface). I then put it down for a while and chat with Derek again. He hadn't solved his copy but had noticed something and suggested that I do something unthinkable to see if it would happen with my copy. Unthinkable? Very much so! I gird my loins and try it. Now that really gets noticed by Mrs S and she is very unhappy about it! In fact she tells me in no uncertain terms to "STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!" Gulp! I stop it...after cheekily doing it one more time just for fun.

Needless to say, it didn't solve the puzzle - apart from annoying "she who scares all living creatures", it  did nothing apart from to make me think© what else this particular feature might indicate. The only thing I could do was to look very closely at the puzzle and notice some unusual features. Aha! There is something odd that I had noticed when it arrived but only Derek's idea made me think harder about it. What if I??? Oh! That was unexpected! Quick, put it back and try again. Yep, not a fluke. Suddenly the burr come apart and the mechanism is visible - no I am not going to show it to you!

It's a six piece cylindrical burr.
No clues here!
So as a clue to you, you have to do something unthinkable and then think© hard before doing something even more unthinkable and try not to piss off your wives/husbands/pets in the process. Over the last week, I have been deliberately pissing off Mrs S because every now and then a bit of violence can be exhilarating! ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

Yet again, I cannot believe what the boys have done! This is so clever and beautifully implemented. The engineering precision to make this work is tremendous. Don't hesitate, if you are a serious puzzler then this is an essential purchase - buy it direct from Steve and Ali at TwoBrassMonkeys (all 5 are available) or if you are in North America then maybe wait for it to be in stock at PuzzleMaster.



Loki from Boaz Feldman
Boaz Feldman recently showed off his latest lock/sequential discovery puzzle on Facebook and I was forced to wait a little while for work to settle down a bit before I remembered to buy it. Like all of his (and his Dad's) creations, the aim is to "open the lock" and then "close the lock". So far I have done neither even if I have discovered a few peculiarities. With my puzzling skills, this could take me months!

Boaz is obviously a cat lover and he knows how much my boyz help me with my puzzling and he was very kind to provide a special Hanayama Cats puzzle in the package - thank you so much my friend.

Yummy!
The cats said that, not me!


The news has been full of the problems occurring in parts of Northern Europe with Covid19 with very high infection rates and the health services almost being overrun. The problems are occurring particularly in places that have poor vaccine uptake. The UK and Israel have shown that with high vaccination rates the number of people getting significantly sick and ending up either in hospital or worse, in critical care, is massively lowered by having a vaccine course (and booster). Yes, it is not 100%, but the only people getting critically ill in my own hospital (and others around the Western world) are those who have chosen not to get vaccinated (including young people) and a few of the vaccinated who have significant immunity problems. So my advice to you if you want to protect yourselves, your families and the population in general is to go and get a jab! Getting a bit under the weather for a day or so is nothing compared to the illness itself (I know, I have had Covid and the jabs)


Sunday, 14 November 2021

Mrs S has Really Good Taste

and Kelly Makes A Fool Out of Me!

Mrs S bought me a wonderful birthday present
A few weeks ago I showed off the lovely gift that was given to me by the present wife - she's doing OK for a first wife after over 27 years! I can't afford a divorce and the patio is nicely done so I cannot put her under there - I guess that whilst she continues to put up with my $hit then she'll be a keeper. I was delighted to get the next 2 in Juno's grooved 6 piece board burr series - #5 (right) and #6 (left) as well as a new one, Bubinburr, in the centre.

Stunning series
I have to say that as a set, they are simply gorgeous. Plus, as a series of puzzles they are also a brilliant and fun challenge. I am not a particular fan of board burrs in general (they tend to be very prone to rotational shortcuts) and tend to only be interested if there is something else really special about them. The grooved board burr series definitely have that something special...not only are they made from Juno's own beautiful home made plywood but the addition of the dowels and grooves turn these into a real challenge. At times during the solutions these really look like they will become very unstable and cheating rotations may become possible but the clever designs prevent this from occurring and we get a fabulous tough but not impossible challenge. My reviews of the others are here: #1, #2, #3 and #4 - every single one has been a special challenge in it's own right and I was only too pleased to see that Juno has continued the series. Don't just take my word for it - Mike at Puzzlepusher has been working on these recently and seems to also have loved them. The recent 2 are still in stock at Pluredro.com for the moment. 

The puzzle is made out of their original plywood. American Rock Maple is used for the outer layer and the darker timber used for the inner layer is Amora. The grain on the Maple is understated but still lovely and the contrast between the two wood colours is lovely. These are nice chunky puzzles, very satisfying to hold and play with (even if this means storing them is harder) - they are 8.2cm in each dimension (apart from time).

According to Juno and Yukari, "the fifth version of the series has a configuration very similar to the first version. Also, the number of moves needed to disassemble the first piece is the same as #1, 22 but #5 has a tricky feature. That was the reason why Juno thought he should produce this version."
I have to agree - I cannot remember the details of solving #1 but this new version led me in the wrong direction for quite a while.

"The grooves are set to have a symmetrical orientation when assembled to give unification, but not to spoil the unique solution. A few grooves are added or extended more than necessary. Thus, not all the grooves are used during the solving process." This definitely was part of my struggle during the solution process - the temptation during all the moving about of the pieces is that when they slide within a groove to always slide to the end of a groove because the thinking is that why would he make the groove longer than it needs to be? To answer that...he would make it longer because it either a) makes a fool out of me or b) looks nicer/symmetrical.

In my usual fashion, I started work on this in the evenings in front of the TV with Mrs S (she got to see me playing with her birthday present and appreciated that for once I wasn't making a lot of noise whilst she wanted to watch television). Unfortunately these puzzles really need decent concentration and I struggle to uni-task let alone multi-task! I got nowhere the first evening. I can't really remember but I must have done the same sequence of moves 20 or 30 times without realising it. The 10pm news was full of doom, gloom and death and I used that as an opportunity to actually concentrate on the puzzle. I finally found a new configuration that I had not expected - it was a little side branch off the path that I had taken several times. I stopped there and back-tracked to the beginning ready for trying again the next day.

The following evening I couldn't find the new move again and went around and around in circles for a while before finding it again almost by accident. From here, I needed to find the next move(s) and was delighted and very surprised to see something totally unexpected happen and the first piece came out in my hand. Brilliant and very unusual release method. I spent a few minutes admiring that and decided to put it back and head back to the beginning...except I couldn't find the pathway. Aaargh, not again! Mrs S was less amused when I started to swear like a navvy - it took me another 20 minutes or so to reset the puzzle. Phew! Time to continue having learned that reset sequence. I removed the piece again and expected that the next pieces would be easily removable...they weren't! Even with a piece missing, this board burr remains pretty stable and there is quite a decent pathway to remove the next 2 pieces. This design is absolutely superb! Finally, after 3 evenings I have managed to take it apart:

Well, that took me an unexpectedly long time!
As you can see, the pieces are beautifully constructed. Initially, I was able to reassemble and disassemble this puzzle several times from memory. Today, however, in disassembling it for the blog photos, I discovered that I could barely remember the sequence and having dismantled it with a struggle and taken my photo, there is absolutely no way that it will be going back together again without help. Burrtools will be coming to my aid - luckily the making of the BT files is all part of the fun for me - no burr is complete until I have modeled it. 

I am looking forward to solving #6 but this is proving (blush) a little, ahem...awkward! The bloody thing won't come apart for a simpleton like me! I'll keep you all posted. Go buy these, you won't be disappointed.



Kel's Spend me not box
One Handed Box remains unsolved
My friend Kelly Snache makes beautiful boxes. At least one of these boxes has scared the bejeezus out of me when I solved it at an MPP a few years ago. I don't own many of his puzzles because, as you all know, I don't collect boxes. I do own a few because they either have something extra to them, or they are Stickman boxes (I still have the latest one designed by Asher Simon sitting right next to me in pieces on my desk after I pulled the pin from the grenade...) or they are simply beautiful.

Kel showed off his latest production run on Facebook and it looked gorgeous to me - I couldn't resist the Zebrano,Wenge and Purpleheart combination and also there is a butterfly inside. It was the butterfly shooting out of the box at the MPP that scared me. The lovely little box has been sitting next to me in the evenings for a few weeks and I have been completely unable to find anything at all to move and open it. Then earlier this week, I noticed something and and wondered how it could be used. I knew that it had to be significant but I got no further until I had a little think© and noticed something in the interior. With a smile I then quickly opened the box (it only took me 3 weeks) and took my photo today.

Pretty isn't it?
Having taken my photo, I suddenly realised that Kel has had the last laugh...I closed it up for the photo with the butterfly outside and now cannot open it again to put the butterfly back! Doh!!! Now I really need to think© and now you can see why I shouldn't collect boxes! Thank you mate - it's a delight.


Sunday, 7 November 2021

Interesting Challenge but NOT Fun

Fangshi SuperZ 2x2x2+Skewb
I received a bunch more twisty puzzles a couple of weeks ago - I peruse the HKNowstore site avery week or so to see what is coming out and this year there have been quite a lot of really interesting and tough looking challenges. Some of these challenges (like the Andromeda cube) look much too difficult for me and I actually decide not to buy them - yes, there are a few puzzles that I do not buy! Other puzzles look much too difficult for me but I buy anyway because they look like something that is an essential part of a collection (in this case the Double crazy cube) and I hope that the internet (or Derek) might provide me with a hint on how to get passed a particularly difficult section. 

Most recent purchases
In the most recent batch was a puzzle that particularly intrigued me - anything that involves a combination of two or more different axes of movement is always something that I find challenging and fun. There have been quite a lot of these over the years...most recently there was the Butterflower cube (shallow cut corner and edge turner) and earlier the fabulous Skewby copter plus (deep cut corner and edge turner). The Fangshi SuperZ 2x2x2+Skewb is a hybrid twisty puzzle combining a simple 2x2x2 face turning cube with a deep cut corner turning puzzle (the Skewb). I really couldn't resist it and was delighted to receive it amongst the others. 

A couple of turns only
The SuperZ 2x2x2+Skewb frightened me less than the others and I had an initial play quite quickly to see how it worked and how it looked after a few turns. I was not disappointed in what it would do but got my first inkling that this might not be as much fun as I had hoped. As one would expect with a puzzle like this with quite deep cuts and several axes of rotation, it is quite squishy... just gripping a face to turn it can make it squish together along the skewb axes. Then when you try to turn the faces, things get really catchy. Sometimes it feels like I am about to break something inside when I try to make a move. To be fair, this was just a sensation and at no time did it actually break but the experience was unpleasant.
My usual initial exploration involves making some basic moves - corner and edge piece series but using alternative axes and combinations of them. This will hopefully provide me with some useful algorithms without having to get really fancy. I am terrible at working out my own algorithms and really don't understand how guys like SuperAntonioVivaldi and Pete the Geek do it - I know the process but I struggle to manage it and once I have, usually inadvertently, scrambled the bloody thing then it is too late for me.

I set to looking for basic algorithms and as expected, scrambled the bloody thing by accident:

It took an extra effort to get no colours adjacent for the photo!
So how to go about it? I had no real idea but my first thought was that maybe the inner triangles were like the corners of one of the 4x4x4 crazy cubes. I started solving these possible corners and rapidly realised that was the wrong approach. They are not corners - as I have said before...I am not great at twisty puzzles. After a bit of thinking©, I came to the conclusion that the best approach would be to use skewb moves to reduce the puzzle to a 2x2 cube. How hard can it be?

OMG! This puzzle is a long laborious solve process moving a puzzle that does not want to move in the direction that you want it to. The skewb cuts are quite deep meaning that each turn affects all but 2 of the cubies. Early on it was just a matter of aligning inner and outer triangles on a few and then moving them to safety (on the 2 non-affected cubies) whilst I moved a few more into place. Once a few were in place then it became really clear that very careful planning of positioning of every cubie and every orientation of the cubies needed to be planned in advance. It could have been fun but the squishiness of the puzzle turned it into an ordeal. I don't mind a long laborious solve but the puzzle really needs to do what I want without a fight. This was a struggle - so difficult to turn it properly and so so many cubies to arrange exactly right.

I solved it once at work much to the amazement of colleagues at work and I decided to be foolish enough to scramble it again and see if I could find a better approach (I couldn't) and also because I needed to take my photos. Solving it a second time was still a huge fight but at the end the fight was justified when I found something very unexpected:

A corner parity
Actually, I should have expected it. This sort of parity occurs when a reassembly of a piece has a false equivalent. It did go some way to making the puzzle a worthwhile purchase. I had a vague idea of how to undo this issue and yet again organised all the cubies where I wanted them and made my skewb turn to align the corner and edge triangles. Having done that, I solved again and had the same bloody parity! Except it was rotated the other way! Time to Think© again. I had done something but had obviously done it the wrong way - try again. Finally after 3 days of swearing at both the puzzle and myself, I had solved it - Phew!

Should I try again? I am very hesitant with this and that is not normal for me with a twisty that I have mastered. Usually I would scramble and solve 6 or 8 times to learn the nuances of it but I am not sure that I can face it with this. I will probably head to YouTube to see if there are any tips for making it more usable as well as any better approaches to the solve. I can at least say that I have solved it.





Brass Monkey 5
Another new arrival this week is the 5th in the series of Steve and Ali's Brass Monkey puzzles. This beauty is available now from their website and according to Allard is fabulous. I have not had time to play at all yet but hopefully soon.


Sunday, 31 October 2021

Gifts Are a Wonderful Thing!

Latest board burrs from Juno
Mrs S' birthday present
Things have been a bit busy at PuzzleMad HQ recently. Work continues to be horrendous and made worse by the awful state of the NHS in pandemic times and as winter sets in. Increasing numbers of the non-vaccinated keep getting admitted to the hospital where they are now preventing us getting the elective patients into hospital. This is preventing hip and knee replacements, elective aortic surgery, reconstructive surgery. Basically, I spend my days doing either urgent/emergency cases, trauma or cancer cases. This doesn't leave much time or energy for puzzling. It doe NOT, however stop the puzzles arriving!

Six so far
Mrs S didn't know it until I told her but she had bought me some gorgeous wood for my birthday (yesterday) when I celebrated being extraordinarily old! Junichi Yananose had created 2 more in the Grooved board burr series which of course would be essential and an extra that was not part of the series but I/she couldn't resist. I had been reminded of these when I saw the sudden return of Mike to blogging with a review of the first two in the series over on Puzzlepusher (#1 here and #2 here) and the hurried over to Pluredro to ensure that Mrs S got me a good present. Needless to say, she is delighted with her purchases! Whack! Ouch! These were only unwrapped yesterday so I cannot say how good or how hard they are. I hope that they are easier than the reassembly of last week's Sweeney Todd which remains in pieces on my puzzling chair. I have the assembly solution from Big Steve and think I will need to admit defeat and go for it.

Another gift came to me a few weeks ago from the wonderful and incredibly generous Frederic Boucher:

Frederic Boucher collection
ResQ on loan
Frederic contacted me after reading that I had missed out on the ResQ from Eric (this is based on his Visitor Q which Eric added to). I am extra-ordinarily lucky to have received a unique enhanced version called the Visitor Q+. Frederic specialises in packing puzzles but not exclusively and he decided to send me a selection. I have been playing away since they arrived and have seriously struggled. Several of these are limited editions which he has made himself revealing fabulous woodwork skills and a few have been made as a collaboration with Osho using laser cut wood. 

I immediately tried the Tsubomi because it was gorgeous but quickly put it down due to the extreme difficulty, I then moved on to something I felt was more manageable with the Puzlin packing puzzle:

Puzlin
How hard can that be? 6 pieces to make a 3x3x3 cube to get through a small entrance in the top of a box. I have solved lots and lots of these courtesy of my friends Osanori Yamamoto and Alexander Magyarics. The difference here is the apparent simplicity of the pieces. It shouldn't be terribly tough, I thought. Then I realised how many ways there are to form a cube with these pieces. How many of these cubes can be inserted through the limited opening? Trial and error started at first until I realised that was a stupid way to go about it. I needed to Think© - something I am not very good at. There is a single cubie fixed inside the box in a really awkward position and this was both a curse and a blessing. Initially I cursed it because it really got in the way. Having finally realised how stupid I was being, it ended up as a blessing when I thought about how it would interact and restrict the placement of the pieces inside. I significantly reduced the number of cube shapes to try and then went about out of the box planning of sequences. Oh that is really quite clever! I think most puzzlers will get it fairly quickly if they think© but not if they try brute forcing it.

Really enjoyable
Having exhausted myself with packing, I couldn't resist a coin maze puzzle:

Based on a design by Osho
The Take 1 has a 1 yen coin inside and 2 sliders at different levels with holes in them. The coin can be moved into a hole in the slider and then shifted elsewhere inside the tray. At this point it is no longer visible and it requires dexterity and deduction to think where it could be moved to as it works it's way through an internal maze and then out. This is another fun challenge with the added frisson of fear when you move the coin and it is completely out of sight and doesn't appear to be anywhere where you expect it. I tried a series of moves and thought it would be released except...it didn't! On top of that realisation, I couldn't return it to anywhere where it could be seen. I had absolutely no idea where it was inside the tray or even what level it was on. OMG! After a bunch of swearing and desperately turning it over and over it reappeared in the start hole. Phew! Time, yet again, to think©! This time I planned it through and decided what layer I needed to be where and what way around it had to be before and after each movement. Suddenly I had my coin - I was RICH!!! Except 1¥ is just $0.0064 so maybe not rich in cash - just rich in experiences:

Very satisfying!
Putting the coin back is just a "simple" matter of reversing what I had done. Except I hadn't written it down and had to work out the reverse path - very satisfying!

Next up a "simple" tray packing puzzle. 

Shark Attack
Another puzzle made in collaboration with Osho - this reminded me of a few that I had bought from Mine. I am truly awful at tray puzzles but this one also looked like there would be an initial trial and error period before having a realisation and a more focussed attack to finally get the solution. I was absolutely right about it - I did this whilst watching TV and it seemed impossible until there is an understanding of how the pieces can lie amongst each other. It took about half an hour and was a delight to sove something without swearing at it. No the solution is not going to be shown! 

Thank you so much Frederic! You have been too generous! I am truly amazed that you would give me the opportunity to own and play with such wonderful puzzles and especially to have one that you have adjusted to be a challenge specifically for me. I look forward to playing with the rest over the next few weeks and months.




Quezzle
Now this one was not strictly a gift. I had been contacted by Ksenia from the Quezzle Kickstarter campaign and they asked my opinion of their idea. I told them that it looked beautiful but seemed to me to be just another jigsaw. They insisted that there was more to it than that and would I take a look? I was happy to do that for them and a large package arrived on Tuesday last week (much to the disgust of "she who frightens the Western world"). Unfortunately, due to work I did not get a chance to even open it until my birthday yesterday. 

So my opinion here is based on just the opening and photography and handling the pieces. I have still not had a chance to start the puzzling. I did not pay for this - it is a sample provided for review. My first impressions are that this is absolutely gorgeous! I am not a jigsaw puzzler and have only reviewed one before on my site (it was an extremely high quality puzzle). These are right up there with the highest quality jigsaws that I have ever seen. It is beautifully packaged. The boxes are laser cut wood which is colour printed all over. 

Under the lid

Beautifully made pieces
The attention to detail is perfect. they have packaged 2 feet to stand up the lid of the box whilst you are working on a puzzle. The pieces are wrapped in a jute sacking. Just looking at some of the pieces it is obvious that they also make a 3D shape as well as are part of the jigsaw.

One thing that appeals to me is that the larger puzzle of 1000 pieces has been split into 4 puzzles of 250 pieces which can later have edges removed to be replaced with provided cross-linking pieces. So is it just a jigsaw? Initially I thought so but then I opened out one of the "documents" that are packed on top of each of the internal the jute wrappings:

There is a LOT more to it
There are multiple challenges and even an app to be downloaded. I have to say that I have never seen anything like it before and despite not being a jigsaw puzzler, this actually really interests me. I did see that my friend Ivan Danik had showed it off on Facebook as well as on his YouTube channel. He also seemed to really like what he saw.

The Quezzle has only one day left on Kickstarter before it then goes on to other crowdfunding sources. I know that Kickstarter can seem risky but they do seem to be able to manufacture these based on what various reviewers have been sent. If jigsaws with extras are your thing then I think you will love this puzzle. Who knows, I might even get Mrs S to join in!


Take care everyone - it's still dangerous out there! Wear your masks in public and get your vaccine and booster as soon as you can.

Sunday, 24 October 2021

Plastic Fantastic!

 Or...Perpetual Plastic Puzzlement is Positively Propitious

Switch cube pieces
Switch cube failed yet again
You may remember the suffering of the poor puzzler from last week? He had foolishly ordered a plastic interlocking puzzle from the rather clever Richard Gain and decided to take the advice of another rather clever puzzler that it would be a really great fun challenge to accept this in pieces as an assembly puzzle. This advice and decision was simultaneously absolutely brilliant and, paradoxically, also a powerfully preposterous preference!

Ok! Ok! Even I am getting fed up with the P words and it's getting tough to find new ones that make sense.

I was left after last weeks' blog post with a bunch of vibrantly red pieces that were supposed to make up a 5x5x5 cube. I had worked out where they all were supposed to go but, for the life of me, I was unable to find a sequence that would lead to an assembly. No matter what I did, I always had one or other piece that I could not insert. On Facebook it was suggested that Burrtools might help but I was loathe to try that and cheat. Dammit! I wanted to be a good successful puzzler for once and actually solve something myself. Richard, chimed in to that conversation to say what I had already worked out - BT would not easily solve the puzzle - it was a TIC (Turning Interlocking Cube). I had noticed that one pair of pieces could only be interlocked with a rotation but I was worried that there might be a whole load of them. Richard said there was only the one rotation - Phew!

I persisted at it. Every evening this week until Thursday, I worked at it. I tried every possible starting sequence and wasn't getting anywhere. Finally on Thursday evening whilst watching TV I realised the source of my problem...it was me! I had got fixated on which piece was going to be the last one to be inserted and that simple insertion would complete the cube. To be honest, I don't know where the fixation began. It did seem like a perfect end to the puzzle as it slid the piece into the cube very nicely but, after days and days of failure, I forced myself to reset my methods and expectations. I began to place this piece earlier amongst the others and kept the blue piece out to be the last one. This still failed me but led to a realisation that there was a fabulous sequential locking movement involving multiple pieces. I couldn't put the blue piece in last but this spurred me to find a way to insert it earlier without blocking the locking sequence. On Thursday evening I thoroughly pissed off Mrs S with a shout:

AHA!

OMG! It is absolutely incredible!
The closing sequence meets the "switch cube" name perfectly 
I have subsequently dismantled and solved this cube dozens of times and absolutely adore it! An amazing design - the TIC element is a nice touch to prevent a puzzler just giving in and resorting to Burrtools but really the puzzle is almost a pure linear assembly puzzle but with multiple steps. The disassembly is level 11.3.2.1.2.2.2 which doesn't sound like much but for a puzzler of poor prowess it was a humongous (and very rewarding) challenge. I have made a BT file which solves it using groups but that is just for the fun of it and because making these files is part of the fun. All that I need now is for someone to make this in wood and I will throw money at them! If you get a chance to add this to your collection then don't hesitate...buy it and ask for it to be sent in pieces.

Sweeney Todd - complete with stand
Oh yesssss! I never thought I would be typing such a thing but again I have perfect plastic puzzling on my kitchen granite to play with! The genius that is Derek Bosch has done it again  - he has designed another helical burr puzzle but one with a real difference. The last one I absolutely raved about...it was so difficult that Allard surprisingly failed at it and of course, who could resist yet another one which was supposed to be the "highest difficulty level yet".

The name is spot on - it has been 3D printed to look like a classical barber's pole and I guess that because it might just kill you to solve it, the murderous barber of Seville is appropriate. I hadn't properly realised until I picked it up (yes I bought it without even looking properly) that it has been designed differently to all the other helical burr type puzzles. Yes, it has 4 pieces like most of the others (the Vapors and Pole Dancers have 3 pieces) but instead of 2 inner and 2 outer pieces, it has a single central pole and 3 outer helical pieces. This monster apparently needs 43 moves to remove the first piece! How could I resist? 

Mrs S was not particularly amused when yet another puzzle delivery interfered with her day - I did reassure her that one of those deliveries was her birthday present to me but she seemed unmoved by it. Following my enormous (but slow) success with the Switch cube, I decided I had to jump straight in with another plastic puzzle. This has been printed by the ThreeBrassMonkeys a bit differently to the others. The inner pole seems to be a different material to their usual - it has silver flecks in the grey plastic and is textured as well. It makes for a surprisingly pleasant tactile experience and something quite nice to look at. The stand stops any of the outer pieces sliding whilst stored upright as well as making it stable for storage on a shelf.

The previous puzzle (Polar Burr) was a wonderful sequence with only a few blind ends and was a very nice discovery puzzle as the correct path needed to be found. This monster, on the other hand, has multiple blind ends right from the beginning and several loops in which you miraculously find yourself back towards the beginning of the puzzle without realising how one achieved that. 

I did my usual to and fro approach and explored the blind ends and back-tracked each time before advancing further. The "maze" has been printed on a smaller scale than most of the other puzzles and so you will require smaller moves each time as part of your exploration. Some of the moves are unexpected and complex which definitely justifies using the to and fro method and at times some of the moves are of the central pole and the interactions with the outer pieces are hidden. At one point about 15 moves in there is a way to remove a piece using an illegal move. It is quite clearly a cheat so I resisted the urge and put it back to continue with the proper solution.

On several occasions I got stuck - I could not back-track and I could not advance. This frightened me to death and really annoyed Mrs S because apparently when this occurs I start to heavy breathe and mutter to myself about being lost! There is nothing more annoying to a wife of 27+ years than a husband who still breathes so I tried my best (unsuccessfully) to do it quietly. Each time I got stuck, after a frantic 10-20 minutes of trying everything I could, I managed to get back to a place that I could remember...

Until I couldn't!
Probably about 25 moves in I did something that I couldn't undo! Not because it got jammed, not because something went wrong with the puzzle. It was my own stupid fault - I do most of my puzzling in the evenings after dinner whilst watching TV with Mrs S. Now I am a bloke which means several things:
  1. I snore sleeping on my back (little clue to all you girls - you do this too! I have a huge experience of sleeping women - it's my job!)
  2. I enjoy watching violent crap on TV
  3. I cannot multi-task! Well we sort of can but it doesn't end well (as we will see)
I was watching TV and doing an extremely complex multi move puzzle! This was one task too many and something happened - I reached yet another place where I could not backtrack. I spent all Friday evening trying to work my way backwards and a fair bit of Saturday as well. Nope! That was not happening. Time to try just to advance only - except I was in a loop. For a couple of hours I went round and round in a circle getting more and more desperate. Suddenly, whilst explaining to Mrs S that the heavy breathing was necessary, I was out of the loop and had no idea how. OMG!

Interestingly, at this point the pieces all had reversed their order on the pole and started to dance in the opposite direction - I was having fun again. I had given up all attempts at keeping track of my path - there was no way in hell that I was going to reassemble this without help. I know Ali had managed it but it had taken him 6 hours and he is a savant! Apparently these things can be modeled in BT as well (I have never managed it).

It's very pretty like this which is just as well
I suspect it is going to stay like this!
After about 6 or 7 hours of fiddling, swearing (and being sworn at), the 3 outer pieces slid off one after another. Photos taken this morning and I now have to contemplate asking Big Steve or Derek for a solution file to help me reassemble it. After that I will have to do it again, and again and again. Until I can say that I actually understand the solution.

This is a fabulous addition to the series - I have a lot of these now and I think this plus the Polar burr are the very best yet. The series has been progressing nicely over the years in difficulty and fun factor. You definitely should add one of these to your collection whilst they are available (Polar burr is available whilst you are there). Steve and Ali sell the plastic puzzles via Puzzle Paradise and keep the TwoBrassMonkeys store for their metal marvels. If you are in North America then you may prefer to use PuzzleMaster for purchasing.


Stay safe guys and gals! It is still taking huge measures to keep things under control around the world. As you can tell, in places where mask use and vaccination levels are low the virus is running amok. Even here, where our idiot government won't do what they are advised, our numbers are going through the roof and our hospitals (including mine) are filling up. This is making the work extremely difficult. It is a really simple thing to do - keep socially distanced as much as possible, where a mask when in public places, get your vaccination (and booster if offered and eligible) and this will keep you and your loved ones as safe as they can possibly be. Unfortunately Coronaviruses don't behave the same way as other viruses and transmission can still occur after vaccination but it is decreased and the level of illness suffered is hugely diminished.


Sunday, 17 October 2021

False Sense of Security

Let this be a lesson to me! 

Dig Ears
Only level 9?
I received a bunch of wire puzzles at the beginning of September from Aaron and thought to myself that I might manage to solve a few at least. I started on the Dig Ears puzzle which was "only" a level 9 on Aaron's Richter scale which goes up to 10+. How hard can it be? It would be a lovely gentle reintroduction to this sort of puzzle and might give me some confidence. 

Wrong!

I worked on it for over a week and managed to move the shuttle around and about but never even close to coming off. I was obviously missing something and tried all sorts of shenanigans which often seemed to be instinctively wrong. Aaron offered me a little hint and this was a big help. I had actually tried what he had suggested on quite a few occasions but it felt wrong and I back-tracked every time for fear of doing something silly. Now with new confidence, I was able to persevere and finally after 2 weeks on a single puzzle I had my long sought after Aha! moment. Phew - I was beginning to think that puzzles weren't my strong point!

Thank goodness!
At least there is one that is not going onto my list of shame:
List of shame!

I have had very little time for puzzling this week but I have had yet another go at a rather wonderful challenge from Rich Gain (Microcubology). This one is called the Switch cube - Rich had shown off a few copies that he had printed on Facebook and I realised that despite having bought loads of cubes from him over the years, I had never even heard of this one. Some bright spark chimed in that this was a really fun challenge as an assembly puzzle so like a fool I requested it be sent to me in pieces! Doh!

Oh dear - a little more complex than I had expected
The aim is to make a 5x5x5 cube - how hard can it be? There had been no mention of rotational moves or that it was a TIC so I set to. Oh boy! This has beaten me - my success with the wire puzzle had given me a false sense of security - I should have realised because I have failed ALL of the other wire puzzles that I bought at the same time and have not managed to solve this one! I have gotten somewhat close but never quite manage to get the last piece in place. The puzzle has so far been a fun challenge but it is terribly frustrating to always get it all assembles with one piece sticking out.

Close but no cigar
I have so far resisted the lure of Burrtools but I'm not sure how much longer I can stand it. I love interlocking puzzles and it is only recently with the arrival of lots of TICs on the market that I have dared to try them as assembly puzzles. Maybe I should go back to easier ones?


Sunday, 10 October 2021

Painful But Very Worthwhile

I'm Not Talking About Mrs S! I Mean The Butterflower Cube

The Butterflower Cube by LanLan
Yes, two twisty blog posts in a row! I have really not had a lot of time for puzzling since I went back to work after my time off and I figured that it was time to finally play with something that I had been carrying around with me since it arrived back in July. I had immediately worked on and solved the Skewb puzzles which were a fun challenge - just the right difficulty level for someone who had not been solving twisties for a while. I had not worked on it because it sort of frightened me as there seemed to be so many parts to scramble and solve and my twisty prowess was at a low ebb. I showed it to several colleagues who just shuddered and shook their heads at me. 


I had thought when I bought it that it was a combination of a Clover cube (a cornerless Curvy copter) and a Dino cube. I have always adored edge turning cube - starting with the Curvy Copter and moving up to the incredibly difficult Skewby Copter Plus. I was sure that this would be a lot of fun and hopefully not too difficult - I was right after a little pain and a little thought (some of which was painful).

Independently edge turning and corner turning
The Butterflower cube turns very nicely and has corner and edge turning properties which includes the usual edge turning jumbling moves. Luckily for me the corner turning and jumbling moves cannot work together otherwise the puzzle would have gotten much too deformed and complex for me to be able to follow. 

Last week, whilst waiting for an intensive care bed for a patient to be made available, I had a little time. I scrambled the little bugger in front of people at work. They looked on with almost as much horror as I did. Stupidly I went straight for a full jumbling scramble and quickly had a dreadful mess:

Believe me, it is properly scrambled - you cannot separate every coloured piece from all their neighbours.
To jeers of disbelief, I set to work and initially just returned it to cube shape - it was less difficult than I remember the Curvy copter being. Then it was time to Think© - I realised the diamond shaped central pieces were more or less fixed and could only rotate through 180ยบ so I assembled what were effectively edges. Then it became clear that the true edges were split in half and spread all around the place - next job to move them into place by intuition and the puzzler's favourite algorithm ("up, up, down, down") with twists of whole edges in between. It took a while and appeared fascinating to my audience that I could achieve such a thing but was not very difficult. When I explained what I was doing, they looked at me like I was some sort of magician but it really is not that tough - I would go as far as to say that a standard Rubik cube is harder than what I had been doing thus far. 

Having recreated inner edges and outer edges it was time to work on the oval "petals". These are split into a large segment and a small triangle which needed to be combined before being put into their correct position. Again, I worked on this entirely using intuition and the 4 move algorithm. Basically, the petals can be moved around using Curvy copter moves until the ones that you want are arranged around a cube corner. Then the corner is rotated to connect the parts of the petal and the formed part then moved away for use elsewhere before turning the corner back and recreating the edges as they had been. Each completed petal could be moved into place and I worked my way from the white face up the cube. Over the space of a day, I managed to do the whole lot until I was left with 4 or 5 incomplete petals and I was stuck. I could not seem to complete them without breaking other things. 

Time for a Think© again! Maybe I had been going about it wrongly? I was fairly certain that my general approach was fine but maybe the last part was doing too much at once? Probably reforming the petals at the same time as moving them into their places on the cube was just too much to do at once? My problem was that I gradually placed myself into a position where there was no room to manoeuvre and then I was unable to complete either of the remaining processes. As is usual, thinking told me to separate the processes. I re-scrambled and did my early sections again. This time I decided to just recreate the petals and store them somewhere safe rather than try to actually place them in their final places. This was much easier and still almost entirely intuition. Once I got to the last 2 or 3 petals it was just a matter of moving them around into appropriate places around a corner, turning the corner to make the petals whole and moving them out. If I replaced them with 3 petal of the same colour then I could turn the corner and realign the outer edges without breaking any petals up again. Yesssss!

I just had a Curvy copter to solve, complete with jumbled moves that had taken them out of their proper orbits which, as I have stated many times is one of my favourite puzzles to solve. It had taken me 2 days and a fair bit of pain but I had conquered the Butterflower cube.

Why painful? For once, it was not down to a Whack! Ouch! from Mrs S (even if she had accused me of looking like Plug again). Well, my very small brain hurt quite a bit but also this puzzle can be lethal on your thumb nails - I think the sharp corners must have nearly torn them off nearly 50 times in the first solve:

See that pointy corner at the back left and right?
Imagine getting that under your thumbnail many many times!
Apart from the pain the Butterflower cube is a wonderful puzzle for anyone who has mastered the basics of the beginners twisty puzzles and wants to go beyond the simple edge turners. This would be another puzzle that would be added to my advice to a beginner twisty puzzler. Once the alternative puzzles have been mastered then this would be an ideal next step up.

Remember to get your vaccines (either first doses or boosters if you are eligible) - they are a LOT better than getting Covid - believe me because I have had Covid and looked after people with it in hospital). They do provide a significant protection from death and significant illness - plus it is everyone's duty to protect the members of society who cannot protect themselves. No, the vaccines are not perfect but they are up to 93% effective for at least 6 months. The only way out of this dreadful pandemic is for people to get vaccinated. Do it! They do NOT affect your DNA! Anyone with knowledge of physiology and genetics knows that is a bloody ridiculous claim. They do NOT affect fertility (also utterly stupid). They are not injecting microchips! Have you seen the size of the needles used to put microchips in pets? They are ENORMOUS! Also most of you carry a phone with you everywhere you go - tracking is pretty easy with that and remember that in your homes Alexa, Siri or Bixby are listening to everything you say anyway!


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